Thursday, February 26, 2009


The film Kissing Jessica Stein, apart from having essentially no artistic merit, and being ever-so-slightly homophobic in the kinda of way that Secretary is ever so slightly BDSM-phobic (think oversimplification and flattening of the nuances of desires and the motivations for them, for a 'mainstream' audience), has one main merit. The main character - a genuinely tiresome, neurotic and sexually timid woman - works as an editor and mulls over and adores out-of-the-ordinary uses of words. 'Marinate' is a key word in this film - her mulling over its use as a non-cooking-related descriptor for thinking on an idea is a moment when her desire for the other main character (a woman!) starts to change and develop. This is, I maintain, the entire reason that I have managed to somehow find myself watching that film a number of times, despite the clear objections I have to it.


–verb (used with object), -nat⋅ed, -nat⋅ing
to steep (food) in a marinade.
Origin: 1635–45; probably Italian. marinato, ptp. of marinare to pickle, or steep in salt water / brine.

While the definitional interlude has more than the slightest air of triteness to it, it seems to set something a-stewing... which is also definitionally appropriate in its own right.

Marinating happens
when words and thoughts sit,
settle and work themselves through your marrow.
Until they vibrate off the ends of your hair,
and tingle out through the toes,
and they must must must be articulated
or they squat in your throat
and choke choke choke.

Perhaps these words are pre-semiotic, pre-articulation,
and so they sit,
and they shape,
and they become,
an endless becoming until
a coming to fruition when they squeeze themselves out
and turn into bright slashes of colour on a canvas,
on skin,
black and white on a page,
and copied.

Marination sits outside the 'conscious', 'subconscious' binary. It's how the world works through to process. It sits sullenly - or was that lovingly? - and stews and melts. It bonds, tenderises - makes ready for the cooking. It makes flesh more succulent, edible, saturates with flavour.

Crucially different from the process of stewing - no application of heat, no need to stir - marination happens from leaving alone: setting in a composite and moving on to other activities.

The end result is far more than the sum of its parts - constituent ingredients: lemon/ lime... citric acid breaks down proteins in its way, sends traces of bitterness along the spine as it creates its own melded tastes, above and beyond the base flavours and textures themselves; then a rich, warm addition - in ochre, rust, burnt sienna, terracotta, and other shades of mud and dirt - creates the base, the bottom layers of warmth in the flavour; with traces of contemplation and emotional fruition saturating all the way through.

Until, finally, at last... the sun shines through. The world crystalises around you. The tenderness has reached its optimum. And there it sits, ready for the cooking.